The Toronto After Dark Film Festival is one week away, but programmer Justin McConnell wants a head start in frightening you.
McConnell (along with producer Avi Federgreen) brings audiences Minutes Past Midnight, an anthology of nine spooky standalone short stories. The project is a fitting release for October, but it also aligns with McConnell’s career outside of TAD. This is the first feature-length film released by his Little Terrors festival – a monthly event co-sponsored by Rue Morgue Magazine – and the quality of each short film featured here matches the level of competency of any past submission I’ve seen from Little Terrors. McConnell understands the horror genre, and knows that his audience appreciates gut-punching kills but crave a good story.
Minutes Past Midnight is an efficient anthology. Aside from it creeping me out, I was impressed with the showcase of grisly make-up and props, as well as with the consistent pace and how each film flawlessly flowed together. You hardly feel Minutes Past Midnight slowing down, yet each short is very different in how it tells a story. That alone makes Minutes Past Midnight have an advantage over V/H/S and The ABCs of Death, although V/H/S/2 is more innovative and Trick r’ Treat is more imaginative.
Another impressive quality of Minutes Past Midnight is its ability to succeed with horror/comedy. The sub-genre proves to be a tough combination for North American filmmakers trying to emulate Edgar Wright or any other overseas visionaries, but some of these short films (most notably Sid Zanforlin’s Never Tear Us Apart and James Moran’s Crazy For You) find an enjoyable balance between cleverness and shocking violence. Some other selections, however, break their back trying too hard to capture the budgetary thrills and yucks of a Troma production (a short about a bowel beast, a film about a cat-and-mouse face-off between a hillbilly and a relentless chupacabra).
If Justin McConnell’s intentions were to build anticipation around Halloween, then he and his collaborators have done a bloody good job.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie